By Noah D.
I came to London the first time in 2008. Since, then I have spent quite a bit of time here: coming up on one year with nary a break.
But I was once the guy on the street corner staring at a map. I had never been to St.Paul’s or walked from the Houses of Parliament to the Tower Bridge on either side of the river. I didn’t know the difference between Leicester Square and Covent Garden and Piccadilly Circus or Oxford Circus or what happens at those different places. Less than that, I didn’t even venture a guess at what a “Shoreditch” was or the best place to exchange money.
The expat community in London is quite large. I wonder how many take a little pride when a friend visits and says: “Could you show me around?”
I assure you, it doesn’t happen in small towns very often. You usually need a purpose to visit small towns. Not that they’re not friendly, of course, but why else would you go there?
Perhaps it is even a point of pride, but being in London and being on the streets this much puts me in a position of responsibility: a position of hospitality. It is certainly not a heavy burden, per se, but it is one I take seriously. If I can help someone have a good experience in “my town” then it is up to me to give it a shot… even if it is more walking than you’ve done in weeks. 🙂
But shouldn’t that be the way of the world? Not passing each other on the street with indifference, but almost as the monks do in their hallways, blessing each other and wishing each other well in their journey. To be unrealistic, should I not wish to bless each of the throngs of holidayers clogging the exit of Tottenham Court Road station? Should I not hope to wish the Random Stoppers as they walk along in a crowd and suddenly turn around to flow upstream like a salmon to spawn?
I’m being a little idealistic, but I have to wonder: why extend hospitality and illumination to only your friends on the rare occasion they come into town when you’re around dozens and hundreds and thousands of people every day who you might just be the light in their rather dark world.
If you’re ever in town, look me up. I’d love to show you around…
NOTE: In the interest of full disclosure, this post originally appeared here. I post it here because of its relevance to recent events and the fact that I, too, need to listen to my own thoughts from time to time.